In this study six versions of recombinant human hoxb4 proteins were produced and their effectiveness evaluated in expanding human haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells in vitro and in vivo. An N-terminal-tat and C-terminal histidine-tagged version of hoxb4 (T-hoxb4-H) showed the highest activity in expanding colony forming cells (CFCs) and long-term culture-initiating cells (LTC-ICs) when used at 50 nmol/l concentration in cell culture. Human cord blood CD34+ cells cultured with 50 nmol/l T-hoxb4-H showed a significant increase in severe-combined immunodeficient mouse-repopulating cells (SRCs). In a mouse model of immune-mediated bone marrow (BM) failure, T-hoxb4-H showed an additive effect with cyclosporine in alleviating pancytopenia. In addition, T-hoxb4-H expanded CFC and LTC-IC on BM samples from patients with refractory severe aplastic anaemia and myelodysplastic syndromes: after culturing with 50 nmol/l T-hoxb4-H for 4 d, BM cells from 10 of the 11 patients showed increases in CFC and LTC-IC, and the increase in LTC-IC was statistically significant in samples from four patients. Recombinant human hoxb4 could be a promising therapeutic agent for BM failure.